It's not likely that your kids are being trailed by a horde of paparazzi ogling their every move as they return to school from holiday break this week. But if they started off the year in a brand new school like Sasha and Malia Obama did, it probably feels that way.
"It's like being under a microscope; a new school can be agonizing," says Carmen Samuels Jackson, who has relocated three times - with two kiddies in tow - due to her husband's job changes. "Will they make friends easily? Will they adjust? Probably. But how long will all that new-kid anxiety last?" Fortunately, Kai, 8, and 5-year-old Maxie usually warm pretty quickly to new surroundings. Carmen attributes the smoothness to the "go-with-the-flow" personalities of her children and "communication and preparation" on her and her husband's end.
Your kids will take most of their emotional cues from mom and dad, says Kat Eden, director of community management for Education.Com, a site that offers parents school resources and also hosts SchoolFinder—a tool that allows parents to learn more about their current schools or research new ones.
Not only did Kat recently relocate from Boston to the Bay Area with her husband and two sons, as a child she also attended more than a half-dozen new schools herself. Her tips to soothe the new-kid blues:
1. Resist spraying sunshine.
Nothing will make your child feel worst than if you minimize the challenges of moving to a new school in the middle of the year. Don't say, "You're going to be fine....everyone will love you!" Instead talk honestly about the reality of the situation and his concerns. Acknowledge the challenge and tell your child something like, "I know it was really hard to leave your old school and your friends. I bet it feels really scary to think about your first day at your new school. Can you tell me some of the things you are worried about?" Don't promise her that the first day will be "great." But do tell her: "I'm here to help you, and our family is going to do everything we can to help get you settled and have a great life here."
2. Try to arrange a test drive.
If possible, let your child spend some time at the school and in the classroom before her first day. An after-school visit on Friday to meet the teacher and principal, locate the restrooms, check out the cafeteria and see her classroom and desk will go a long way toward making your child feel more comfortable when she starts on Monday morning.